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Indian Boundary Park Field House Renovation: 'I'm Home; We're Home'

By Benjamin Woodard | January 2, 2014 1:41pm | Updated on January 2, 2014 3:16pm
 Park supervisor Phil Martini had been waiting nearly two years to move back into the burned field house.
Indian Boundary Park Field House Renovation
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WEST ROGERS PARK — A year and a half after a fire ignited in an attic full of costumes and badly damaged the Indian Boundary Park field house, park supervisor Phil Martini says he's "home."

"We're not doing makeshift anymore," said Martini, 53, whose office and park programs had been relocated to nearby Warren Park since the May 2012 fire. "This is the perfect space for the art we make. ... I feel much more creative here."

The field house, built in the 1920s and designated a Chicago landmark in 2005, has been completely restored, including the beloved — and severely damaged — auditorium.

Martini said this week that the fire started in the attic and spread to a storage room full of costumes from the past 35 years. The field house's slate roof trapped the heat like an oven, he said, and the ceiling collapsed into the auditorium below.

Firefighters poured water in through the roof to extinguish the fire, causing a "waterfall" down the basement steps, said Martini.

The entire restoration cost $1.5 million, but was completely covered by the Chicago Park District's insurance policy, said park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.

The restoration included all new electrical, new interior finishes, new slate roof, new steel roof beams, new copper gutters, masonry repairs and restoration of "destroyed" historic chandeliers and wall sconces, she said.

The cost to "restore something like this," Martini said, "I can't even imagine."

The field house's memorable Native American relief artwork, sculpted from plaster and wood trim, was also restored by an art restoration specialist.

The auditorium's ceiling was reinforced with steel support beams. Its wood floor, smelling of fresh stain, was also replaced. (It smells "like a new car," says Martini.)

"I love this building," he said. "I'm home. We're home."

A grand reopening celebration is planned from 2-5 p.m. Sunday at the field house, 2500 W. Lunt Ave.